Greetings all. I’m Patrick Gallagher, a Master in Public Health student at Emory University and summer intern at International Relief and Development (IRD) in Harare, Zimbabwe. I’ll be periodically posting news about my work and other observations to let Candler friends and family know about Emory’s involvement in international development work. Thanks for reading!
I spent a week at IRD headquarters in Washington, DC, becoming acquainted with the organization and its activities. The breadth and depth of IRD’s programs around the globe is impressive (see www.ird.org for more), especially for a relatively young organization, and its people were experienced and energetic. The five-day orientation left me excited to get to the field.
After arriving in Harare, Zimbabwe, on May 22, I got down to business the next day. A thorough explanation of the nuances of IRD-Zimbabwe’s REVALUE program gave me insight into the complexity of agricultural programming in international development, a field to which I had no previous exposure.
My Emory colleague Chantalle and I have been charged with designing, conducting, and analyzing a quantitative survey seeking to understand the impact of the REVALUE program on the well-being of children of rural groundnut farmers. These first two weeks, we’ve been researching the challenges that rural Zimbabwean children face, concentrating on the vulnerabilities of orphans and vulnerable children (OVC). We’ve dug through published studies, talked to our colleagues, and visited a local children’s welfare center to get a handle on which areas our survey should address. We’ve settled on five key issues: education, food security and nutrition, health, psychosocial support, and labor conditions. The goal is to evaluate whether the increased income the farmers have earned as part of REVALUE has improved the condition of their children, especially OVC living under their roof.
I’ve been struck by the need to balance so many competing interests when designing a survey like this. I, of course, want a large sample of complete, precise data, which will give IRD an accurate portrait of the situation. There are multiple questions that might produce the same answer; or, possibly, one small word change will produce a drastically different answer. This challenge is compounded by the translation of the survey into the local Shona language.
Additionally, I must keep in mind that our budget is limited, so we can only afford to use one vehicle for a handful of days, which decreases the number of farmers we will be able to interview and the strength of the data. We must also consider that the farmer-respondents who complete our survey have a limited amount of time and patience, especially since they’ve given us info for other surveys previously. And the list goes on… Despite that, we’ll do our best to balance the various interests.
IRD’ s Zimbabwe team is truly outstanding. This is a group of highly educated, driven, and perceptive people working for the development of their nation. It is an honor to work alongside them and enjoy their company on the weekends.
As of June 3, we’ve nearly finished designing the survey. After the finishing touches, we’ll head to the rural district of Buhera to conduct it. Hopefully we can smoothly navigate any logistic difficulties that arise and get a solid dataset within two weeks. I’ll check back in then.